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Chapter 7 : Two's company, five's a complete nightmare
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I was walking though a secluded patch of forest, where the sunlight was filtering through the leaves above, casting a deep green hue across the mossy floor. I felt wonderfully safe and peaceful, as a cloud of butterflies fluttered about me. I wandered for a brief time, before finding myself in a small clearing, where a picnic had been laid out. As I sat down on the soft blue rug, I realised I was not alone; by my side was a guy; tall, with longish blond hair, pale skin, and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. He took my hand, turning me around and pulling me towards him. “Lily,” he murmured, “I truly love you, so very much!” My eyes filled with tears as I chokingly replied, “I love you too, my darling Scorpio.” Slowly, we leant towards each other, until his lips were just a whisper away from my own. My heart raced as I felt his breath, warm and sweet against my face, and I melted as he sensuously called my name.
“Lily. Lily! LILY!”
I woke with a start, and found Electra shaking me roughly, a look of barely-disguised annoyance on her face. Shocked by the realisation of my dream’s leading man, I immediately began to blush, ever grateful that I had not inherited my father’s tendency to talk in my sleep. What on Earth was I doing dreaming about him? And like that, too; I don’t think of him that way. It was new enough that I even thought of him at all, but dreaming of us together was definitely the product of late night cheese-eating.
After rubbing my eyes, I realised a second shocking fact – Electra was changed and ready for breakfast! In all our four years together, Electra had never been out of bed before me. Even during the great prank war of our third year, where one of the boys had set her bed’s curtains alight, I’d still had to get myself up and then shake her before she would move from under the increasing warmth of her duvet. Looking around, I realised Chelsea was similarly awake and dressed, but her slumped position against the door suggested she had not been given much of a choice in the matter.
“Where’s the fire? I asked groggily, as I attempted to reach full alertness.
“Ha. Ha. Get up already! Louis and Hugo are going down to Hogsmeade early, so we need to get down to breakfast in the next ten minutes, or I won’t get to say goodbye!” Electra actually stomped her foot at the end of her speech, perfectly completing the image of a five-year old temper tantrum. Foolishly, I tried to reason with her:
“OK, but aren’t we meeting them for lunch anyway?” Scary in her clinginess though she was, Electra could still be counted on when it came to setting up a double date for a friend. As such, Electra, Chelsea and I would be meeting my cousins at the Three Broomsticks at one.
“What, exactly, is your point? That’s more than five entire hours away!” Her pitch was getting even higher as she contemplated the colossal length of their separation.
“Of course, how silly of me,” I deadpanned, to no effect. “OK, why don’t you go down to breakfast without me?” Still foolish – still attempting to reason.
“And look like I’ve been too desperate to see him to even wait for my friends? Please, I’m not that pathetic.”
I raised an eyebrow at this, and was promptly swiped with a pillow.
“Geez, I’m up, I’m up! Give me five minutes,” whack, “OK, three!”
Four minutes later, and we were entering the great hall, Electra pretending to look anywhere but the Ravenclaw table. As we passed, Louis called out to her, and she immediately left us to wish him a heartfelt farewell. Giggling, we continued on to some empty space at the Gryffindor table, eventually sitting down next to Molly and Lucy. I was spectacularly unsurprised at their early dining; Lucy had long been explaining to me that eight till eleven am was the only time to use the library if you wanted peace and quiet. I’d always thought that eight am on a Saturday was for peace and quiet in bed, but had long since stopped explaining this back to her. Her twin Molly was equally determined to beat Rose’s OWL grades, so for them, this could actually be considered a lie in. I suppose it’s nice that they have each other, I thought, as I watched them delicately dissecting matching grapefruit halves.
I grabbed a few pieces of toast for myself, as had just finished buttering them, when a thump alerted me to Electra’s return. She sighed dramatically, paused for response, then shrugged and started preparing her own breakfast.
“So, Electra,” I started, once I was confident she had given up hope, “did you see him off OK?”
“I guess.” She sighed again, though was clearly thrilled to be back on her favourite topic “It’s just that Amelia is going down town with them. Apparently they all need to be first to the quidditch store.” Sarcasm practically dripped from her at the last part.
“And paranoid delusion number eight is...” Chelsea whispered, finishing her commentary just in time for Electra’s inevitable explosion.
“I mean, seriously, who that girl thinks she’s kidding! She so clearly just wants to get with my man. And Louis! Going along with her, like he doesn’t know exactly what she’s up to. What am I supposed to do, just believe them? Trust them?”
Chelsea and I both bit hard on our lips to stop from giggling. That might sound mean, but Amelia was a) somewhat plain, b) not remotely interested in guys like Louis, and c) a seriously devoted quidditch player, so the odds of Electra’s fears being founded weren’t high. However, in the nine days that they had been dating, we had already learnt that Electra’s paranoia could not be argued with, so we wisely refrained from commenting.
“So,” Chelsea asked us, “what’s the plan for this morning?” Electra started opening her mouth, but Chelsea quickly added, “And no, we are not going to the quidditch store and spying on your boyfriend!”
Electra slumped back into her seat, while I suggested:
“How about Honeydukes and a walk round the shrieking shack?” Since the truth about the shack had been discovered by my brother in his second year, it had become a much nicer place to hang out, and the surrounding gardens actually made for a cosy picnic spot in the summer.
“Yeah, we might have time for that,” Chelsea hedged, not being as much of a rambler as myself, “but how about hitting Gladrags and the Post Office first?”
Electra perked up at this, no doubt planning her next killer outfit with which to lure Louis away from eager Ravenclaws.
“Sounds like a plan to me! So, Lils, what colour does Louis like best, black or red?”
Five long hours later, and we had finally finished shopping. Electra had once again displayed an incredible focus unknown to her professors, and was thus carrying a grand total of seven shopping bags, containing no less than twenty-two items of clothing. Chelsea had achieved a more modest total, with only twelve pieces in two bags, and I was once again bringing up the rear, with two tops and some new quidditch robes. According to the others, this last item didn’t even count, but I figured that with the amount of time I spent practising, it was actually a major part of my wardrobe. Images of being seen in them by a certain member of an opposing team were being resolutely ignored.
As we entered the three broomsticks, Electra’s face went through a myriad of emotions – tense, as she scanned the room; happy, as she spotted Louis and Hugo; and appalled followed by angry, as she spotted who they were chatting with.
“That conniving little cow!” she exclaimed, staring pointedly at an oblivious Amelia, “I knew she wasn’t just interested in quidditch supplies!”
“Breathe, Electra,” Chelsea reminded her, “why don’t we just go over and sit down. I’m sure nothing’s going on.”
“Yeah, we wouldn’t want Louis thinking you were jealous or something,” I added pointedly.
Electra simply rolled her eyes at me, before grabbing Chelsea’s arm for support, and pulling her over to them.
“I’ll get the drinks then, shall I!” I called after them, shaking my head. Electra simply waved a hand in response.
Twenty minutes later, and everyone had returned to some form of sanity. Well, Chelsea and Hugo were having odd spurts of conversation, followed by abrupt blushing and averted gazes, while Louis and Electra fed each other chips and giggled. After bolting down a butterbeer and a packet of crisps, I figured I had done my duty as fifth wheel. Standing up, I announced:
“Right, I’m off; got some more shopping to do.”
This abysmal attempt at an excuse was received with the acceptance that only comes when no one is remotely listening.
“Bye then!” I continued, before shrugging and heading out.
It was only a short walk from the Three Broomsticks to the edge of town, and then another hundred yards or so to the edge of the forbidden forest, but it felt like far longer as I considered my plans. Suddenly, the idea of meeting outside of school seemed ridiculous. I could just imagine trying to explain to James if he saw us. Oh, yeah, just fancied a walk in the forest, what’s odd about that? Why is Scorpius here? Well, I bumped into him, and we figured the best way to honour the family feud was to hang out. A patronus, you say? No, I’m sure that was just a giant see-through floating animal; you get them around here all the time... hmm, maybe not.
Finally, I made it to our agreed upon location, and found Scorpius leaning against a tree. The image of him surrounded by foliage was disturbingly familiar, and I once again had to remind myself of his increasingly invalid arch-nemesis status. You are only spending time with him to keep your secret. No naughty thoughts here!
As he spotted me, he broke into a wide smile, which I found myself returning. After a few seconds, I snapped myself out of it, and said:
“So, patronuses. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
He turned more serious, drawing his wand and incanting,
The resulting patronus was certainly an improvement on where we had left things, but clearly something was off. Scorpius slumped back against the tree, as though beaten. However, I’d been mulling it over for the past few days, and so I now asked him:
“OK, that’s good, really, but I was wandering ... what are you thinking about when you cast it?”
“Thanks for the déjà vu. I’m thinking happy thoughts, like you said. I’m incapable, clearly, but even I can remember that much.” He glared for a moment, thought more at himself than me, and snapped off a twig before turning it into kindling. Wow, sensitive much? Tact, Lily, give it a go.
“You’re not incapable” but you are kinda stroppy today, “I was just thinking that maybe the thought wasn’t happy enough, cause as good as your patronus is, it doesn’t seem to last. So, can we talk about it, or do you wanna sulk some more?” Well, tact is great, but I’m no one’s punching bag.
Scorpius ducked his head a little, before looking up and replying, “Yeah, sorry. So, I was thinking about the day I got my acceptance letter for Hogwarts. I was really happy to be leaving home; plus, it meant my dad would finally stop saying I wouldn’t get in.”
“Wow, um, yeah. Not sure that’s the best thought to use.” Scorpius looked at me quizzically, but he no longer seemed annoyed, so I continued,
“A patronus is pure happiness. That sounds more like relief and anger. Haven’t you ever just been happy – no negatives involved?”
He frowned, thinking, for a few seconds, before brightening, and saying,
“You know, I think I’ve got one. It happened pretty recently, so I hadn’t even considered it as a memory until now.”
Pushing himself back up, he called out, “Expecto patronum!”
A giant bird burst from his wand, swooping around us for a good ten seconds before dissipating. Wow, that is one happy memory, I mused. Watching its final seconds, I wasn’t sure if I was more surprised by its quality or its form. It can’t be a phoenix, surely, ‘cause us having the same patronus would just be too weird.
Several attempts later, and we had determined that it was in fact an augurey – a relation of the phoenix found solely in Ireland. We had also determined that with this new memory, he could cast the spell pretty successfully. Scorpius’ tension had gone as his confidence grew, and we were now both lying down on the grass as we moved on to planning the next step.
“OK, so now we need to get you practising against something ... not really sure how to do that, short of getting ourselves arrested.”
“Well, how did your dad do it?”
“He used a boggart, but unless they turn into dementors around you too...” I trailed off, noting his reaction, “OK, so we need to find a boggart then. Shouldn’t be too hard; there’s normally at least one hiding about in the castle.”
“Bet that seems kind of pathetic, being so scared of dementors.” He mumbled, sitting back up. I shrugged.
“Not really. That’s kind of the good thing about boggarts – they show us that we’re all scared of something.”
“Yeah? What do they turn into with you?”
I blushed, but replied, “Rita Skeeter.”
He laughed, before realising I wasn’t joking.
“Rita Skeeter? That’s what scares you most in the whole world – a reporter?”
“Hey, she owns almost all the European magical news network! And yeah, she’s what scares me, or I guess what she could do.”
“And that is?” he probed gently.
“Expose me.” I barely raised my voice above a whisper at that, but looking up, I could see in his eyes that he’d understood.
“I still don’t get that – why the big secret? What’s wrong with being good at magic?”
“It’s hard to explain. The first time it manifested in public, I was four. I was at play school, and a kid had been picking on me, so I apparated home. She – Rita – found out about it, and by the end of the week, there were stories about my magical talents in every major paper. Apparently, only one other wizard ever learnt that kind of magic so young, and before we knew, I was being labelled Tom Riddle, reborn.”
“No way! That’s stupid.”
“I know, and once I stopped doing it in public, it all died down pretty quickly. James, on the other hand, didn’t speak to me for a month. See, he had just turned seven, and everyone was waiting for him to show some talent. His baby sister performing complex magic at will was not appreciated.”
“So that’s it? One sulk from Mr Big, and you gave up for good?”
“That’s where it started. Now, I guess I just don’t want the attention. I’m Lily Potter, the baby of the group. I’m sweet and innocent and ‘just a girl’. If I tried to be anything else people would freak.”
Scorpius lay back down, breaking eye contact with me.
“OK, I can see how you being yourself might shatter some people’s expectations, but what’s so bad about that? People can handle it. Look at me – when I first started excelling at History of Magic and Muggle studies, it was a huge deal, but nowadays people don’t even remember I’m taking them. Heck, odds are people will still see you as sweet and innocent anyway; they still see me as a Casanova bad-boy and I’ve neither hexed nor dated anyone in almost a year.”
We lay there for a few moments, as I thought about the image I’d had of Scorpius, versus the reality. Suddenly he jumped up, went to his bag, and took out a stack of parchments. Returning to our spot, he said:
“I completely forgot; I brought these for you.” He handed me the pile, and continued, “They’re my OWL level essays for History of Magic and Muggle studies. I remembered you said you weren’t too keen on those subjects, and I thought they might help a little.”
I smiled, truly touched by his actions.
“That’s really sweet of you. And yeah, they could definitely come in handy.” My eyes widened as I flicked through the sheaths. “Whoa, did you get anything other than an O?”
He chuckled, before replying, “No. They’re no big deal; seems only fair given that you’re spending your study time tutoring me.”
“True, you do owe me,” I dead-panned, “but on that note, we should really get back to working out how we’re going to capture a boggart.”
Twenty minutes later – plan firmly in place – we separately headed back up to the castle. Finding the Gryffindor common room deserted, I then headed on up to our dorm. Outside, it sounded empty, so I was surprised, on opening the door, to find both Electra and Chelsea inside. Electra was lying face up on her bed, apparently having a staring competition with the ceiling. Her eyes were puffy and red, and the twin streaks of mascara confirmed my suspicions that something had gone wrong in my absence.
“Hey, Lexi, what’s up?” I asked, cautiously approaching her bed.
“Nothing!” she responded, scrubbing her eyes and rolling away from me.
“It’s Louis,” Chelsea added, beckoning me over, “they got into a fight about him and Amelia. She accused him of cheating and...”
“He called me insecure! INSECURE! Me!” Electra rejoined the conversation despite herself, “Can you believe it?”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Chelsea responded consolingly, “it was just a little misunderstanding.”
“Huh! Well, when he’s ready to apologise, he knows where to find me.” With that, Electra rolled back over, and started to mutilate a stuffed toy that Louis had left for her earlier in the week.
Ah, we may have a serious problem. Motioning to Chelsea, we snuck out to the corridor. Once the door was safely closed, I turned to her and asked,
“So, was he cheating? ‘Cause I gotta say, that’s not like Louis.”
“Not a chance. Electra’s gone ... well, she’s kind of being a crazy person right now.”
“So the odds of him apologising...?”
“Even less of a chance.”
I noticed Chelsea didn’t seem quite as vicariously dejected as she usually did when Electra had a break up.
“Alright, spill. What’s making you so chipper?” Chelsea blushed, before replying,
“Hugo, he asked me out!”
Just when I thought a situation couldn’t get any more awkward. Why couldn’t Mum have been an only child?
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